We examine the absurdity attached to defining someone else’s sexuality.
I came out as bisexual at 14, inspired by a google search. At that time, there were not many easily accessible and openly visible bisexuals. If you googled bisexuality, you got either academic articles, full of scientific definitions, or porn.
While discovering the porn was sensational for a hormonal teenager, it was finding the word bisexual that was really life changing. It made sense for me. I was romantically and sexually attracted to more than one gender. Until then, I thought everyone experienced their sexuality like me. Naively, I thought at a certain age there would be a sorting hat à la Harry Potter to tell me if I landed in the "straight" house or the "gay" house.
But I landed, and made camp, in the bisexual house, but despite my permanent residency, people keep trying to have me evicted. Close friends have asked me if I'm "full blown gay yet?" For many, my bisexuality means I have been in a ten year long "phase," it's a misconception that paints my sexuality as less legitimate than other sexualities.
Bisexuals are plagued with erasing tropes like being told our identities are a phase. Most recently, super-model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne had her bisexuality questioned by a Vogue journalist who suggested that she was going through a phase with women. (It doesn't look like there's any amount of celebrity that can shield you from the ignorance that follows bisexuality.)
Calling bisexuality a phase isn't the only annoying misconception we face. Bisexuals are stereotyped as cheaters, lacking commitment, and overly sexualized. Bisexual women are caricatured as attention seekers, whilst bisexual men, on the other hand, are assumed to really be gay and unable to "fully" come out of the closet. It's odd how much ignorance there is around bisexuality when we make up the largest part of the LGBT community. Statistics show that, in the United States, 2/3 of LGBT women are bisexual and 1/3 of LGBT men are bisexual.. Still, there is a lack of basic understanding, and acceptance of bisexuality - and it is harming us.
The capability of being attracted to someone of a different sex leads people to assert bisexuals aren't "queer" enough to be a part of the LGBT community. Even more so, when bisexuals are in a relationship with someone of a different sex, it appears to be a traditional, heterosexual relationship. Yet, saying bisexuals have some sort of "straight privilege" is a misnomer -- passing is not a privilege. That "privilege" only leads to further invisibility and does not help dispel any of the misconceptions we face.
The other problem for bisexuals is that we face speculation on our identities from both the gay and straight community. The gay and lesbian community find themselves to be just as prejudiced (if not more so) against bisexuals. Bisexuality complicates a narrative that says sexuality is either gay or straight, because it says that you can be romantically and sexually attracted to men, women, and everyone in between. The idea that bisexuality is a phase is rooted in this binary narrative.
The same misconceptions faced in public, bisexuals face with healthcare providers. The bisexual community continually ranks higher health disparities than our gay and straight counterparts. Many of these disparities can be pinpointed to how our healthcare providers handle our sexuality. In a recent study conducted by the Equality Network in the UK researchers found that nearly half of bisexuals have faced biphobic comments while accessing healthcare services. Similar studies have said the same of US based healthcare services.
People, including doctors, who believe that bisexuality is a phase, simply will not take our health issues seriously. Bisexual women face high rates of domestic violence, bisexual men face high rates of contracting STIs (due to biphobia at healthcare spaces); bisexuals are more likely to engage in substance abuse and have an array of mental health issues. Clearly, acknowledging and learning about bisexuality is incredibly important. I personally hope this education is prioritised, not only to end passing remarks that attempt to delegitimise bisexuality but also in working to end the various health issues bisexuals' face. The "bisexuality is a phase" misconception trickles down into bisexuals' everyday experiences. It erases mine and millions of other bisexuals' existence, making us an invisible minority. My sexuality is valid and perpetuating this misconception is not just insulting, it is harmful in very tangible ways.
Text Eliel Cruz